Eric Bookhart/Harvest Records
Professor Longhair's "Tipitina" is a New Orleans funk staple and a template for the New Orleans piano style.
Professor Longhair's "Tipitina" is a New Orleans funk staple and a template for the New Orleans piano style. Eric Bookhart/Harvest Records
It's Mardi Gras week in New Orleans, so it's as good a time as any to join in the celebration with a brief but broad overview of some of the Crescent City's many extraordinary pianists.
One of the beauties of New Orleans piano music is that once you hear it, you'll know it whenever you encounter it again, regardless of context. Whether it's played as jazz or blues or funk, the cultural gumbo that makes up this piano style is unique to New Orleans — and, if a style can be said to have a personality, New Orleans piano has personality to burn.
There's only room for five examples in this list, but if you like what you hear, many more New Orleans pianists merit further exploration, including Tuts Washington, James Booker, Fats Domino, Cousin Joe, Jon Cleary, Ellis Marsalis, David Torkanowsky and — when he's in the mood to really throw down and play — Harry Connick Jr., to name just a few. So start with these five and spread out. You'll most assuredly "pass a good time," as they say down Acadiana way.